TCM recipes to keep summer irritants at bay

TRADITIONAL Chinese medicine firmly holds the belief that people should stay in tune with the season. With summer here, it’s time to get into the swing of things and make adjustments to your diet and schedule.

“Huang Di Nei Jing” (Medical Classic of the Yellow Emperor) says the energy of the Heaven meets and merges with the energy of the Earth in this season.

Yang (“warm”) energy grows rapidly in the universe while yin (“cold”) energy diminishes. To get in tune with the universe, people should get up early and go to bed late.

Releasing excessive heat and “toxins” as well as the blockage of blood and energy is essential for maintaining perfect health in summer.

Only through the effective release will you be able to absorb the reinforcing therapy in autumn and winter.

Eating yin energy food and sweating also help in releasing blockages and improve energy flow. Do not avoid the early summer sunshine (use suncream) but drink enough water to make up for the lost fluid.

Weak people and those with heart conditions should be watchful about sunstroke, according to Dr Fu Yude at Yueyang Hospital attached to Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

The heart in TCM refers not only to the organ that pumps blood but also the blood vessels — and the brain as well.

The energy in the heart works faster in summer, causing irritation and impatience. This increases the heart rate and puts more stress on the heart.

It also aggravates hypertension and other conditions.

Keeping calm and staying in a good mood is crucially important for people to protect their “hearts” in the summer, Dr Fu says.

Hypertension patients should keep checking their blood pressure and take their medication on time.

“Cold” energy foods like tuckahoe, lotus, lily’s roots, jujube and gouqi (wolfberry) can nourish the heart.

Other yin products like bitter cucumber, mungbeans, white fungus and watermelon can help dispel excessive heat and relieve irritation.

Try to sit quietly, close your eyes and clear your mind. This can help balance the mood and adjust the yin-yang internal balance.

Digestive problems are a common occurrence in summer. The spleen and stomach are particularly vulnerable, according to Dr Chen Xianchuan at Yueyang Hospital.

Cold (referring to temperature) food like ice cream can stimulate a weak digestive system and cause indigestion, stomachache and diarrhea. Do not eat ice-cold foods right after they are taken out of the fridge. Let them warm to room temperature. Also, don’t eat too much at one time.

Congee and soup are helpful for people with a weak spleen and stomach as they are nutritious and easy to digest. Ginger with sufficient yang energy can help in improving digestion, boost appetite, and relieve fatigue and sleeplessness that is common in hot summer.

After xiaoman (Small Grains), the solar term that falls tomorrow, expect more rain that will make the weather warmer and damper, leading to various skin problems. To prevent skin ailments, eat mungbeans, white gourd, cucumber, water chestnut, edible tree fungus, carrots, tomatoes, watermelons, yams and crucian carp. Avoid irritating food that contain pepper, chili, garlic, Chinese cinnamon and fennel.

Tea or wine made from herbs like smugwort, sweet wormwood, citronella and pummel leaf are popular health-boosting drinks in summer. Soaking the infected part in decoction of the same herbs can also help prevent relapse of skin ailments like dermatitis, eczema and ringworm.

Summer recipes

Herbal eggs

Ingredients: Shells of 6-8 walnuts, tea leaves (10g), star anise (2g), cinnamon (3g), 3 slices of ginger, six eggs, salt, soy sauce

Preparation:

1. Soak all the ingredients in an earthen pot filled with water, except for eggs, for 15 minutes.

2. Heat them until the water begins to boil and then turn it to gentle heat for another 20 minutes.

3. Add the raw eggs along with salt and soy sauce for about 15 minutes.

4. Crack the eggs with a spoon and keep heating for another 20 minutes so that the eggs absorb the soup better.

5. Turn off the heat and leave the eggs in the soup for half a day before eating.

Benefits:

• The walnut shell, widely used as a TCM herb, is supposed to be good for the spleen and the kidneys and helps prevent poor appetite and indigestion in hot summer.

• Eggs help reinforce energy gently; tea leaves help dispel toxins, while cinnamon and anises support the yang energy inside. The herbal eggs in general help prevent summer sickness, especially poor appetite and long-term fatigue.

Heart-nourishing soup

Ingredients: lilyturf roots (10g), wheat (10g), lotus seeds (10g)

Preparations:

1. Soak all the ingredients in a saucepot with water for an hour.

2. Heat them until the water boils and then turn it to gentle heat for another 30 minutes.

3. Filter the soup drink often as tea.

Benefits: Helps nourish the heart, ensures good sleep and drives away the irritable mood in the summer.

Energy-reinforcing soup

Ingredients: Gouqi (10g), jujubes (10g), longan without shell (10g)

Preparations:

1. Put all the ingredients in a saucepot with water.

2. Heat them till the water boils and then gentle heat for another 30 minutes.

3. Filter the soup drink often as tea.

Benefits: Reinforces energy and blood, relieves sleepiness in the afternoon and long-term fatigue in the summer.

Digestion-boosting congee

Ingredients: millet (40g), lily’s roots (15g), yam (150g)

Preparations:

1. Soak the millet and lily’s root separately in water for an hour.

2. Put the millet in a saucepan with water and bring it to a quick boiling.

3. Get rid of the foam on the surface.

4. Add the yam in and turn to gentle heat after it boils again.

5. Keep simmering for about 20 minutes and add lily’s root.

6. Simmer with gentle heat for another 8 minutes.

7. Eat the congee as staple food or as afternoon snack.

Benefits: Helps the digestive system and boosts appetite.